Building a smart grid

With the increasing demand for renewable forms of energy and with technological advancements, building a smart grid is the way forward!

The smart grid introduces the two-way dialogue where electricity and data can be exchanged between the utility and its customers. This technology will make the grid more efficient, reliable, safe and greener! The smart grid enables the integration of renewable technologies into the grid, such as wind and solar energy production.

One step to a smart grid is by using net metering technology.

Understanding Net metering

Net metering allows renewable energy technology to be used at the residential, commercial, or community level. The Net metering program in Saskatchewan currently allows customers to connect up to 100 kW renewable energy at a single meter. The existing electrical meter is exchanged for a net meter or “bi-directional” meter. This meter will read power in both directions, allowing the customer to feed additional power to the grid and receive credit for the power being produced. The power credits are only good for a single meter and they reset annually, so credits are not able to be accumulated or paid out at the end of the year. This means that any installation must be sized correctly to ensure it is producing only the amount of power that it is being used by the building or site connected to the single meter.

Net metering allows the customer to benefit financially from installing a renewable energy system to offset the costs of electricity for that building or site. For example, solar can be installed on a community center where the power bill may be $1000 per month. The solar could take care of 75-100% of the electricity costs, allowing that money to be used for other communities’ needs.

For more information, please visit SaskPower

Virtual Net Metering

Virtual Net Metering (VNM), also known as Aggregated Metering, allows a renewable energy project to connect at one meter and share the generation credits with selected meters from various locations of choice by the customer. Virtual Net Metering programs exist in more than fifteen states in the US. The benefits of Virtual Net Metering include:

  • Economies of scale: allows projects to be built in a centralized area, near the community, rather than on individual buildings
  • Sharing generation production with multiple customers/buildings
  • Truly community-owned systems

The province of Ontario has been considering changes to their Net Metering policy to allow for virtual net metering or aggregated metering. Below is a summary of the proposed changes to policy that would be required in Ontario for virtual net metering to be successful:

  • Extending the credit carryover period to 12 months
  • Allowing any sized renewable energy generation system, subject to the system being used primarily for the generator’s own use
  • Establishing a billing method for Single-Entity Virtual Net Metering
  • Allowing for the use of energy storage when paired with renewable energy
  • Updating opt-in terms by allowing existing net metering customers to opt-in to the updated program.

SaskPower currently does not have a virtual net metering program and this would require many policy changes, including the implementation of smart meters and other related infrastructure to support VNM. Saskatoon Light and Power is currently running a net metering pilot project in the City of Saskatoon. For Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan, a virtual net metering program would significantly benefit communities as it would allow a community to install a larger community-scale renewable energy system and use the production credits to offset electricity usage for multiple buildings and residences in the community.

FNPA Virtual Net Metering Pilot Project

FNPA is working with interested General Member communities on developing a virtual net metering pilot project with First Nations and Metis communities in Saskatchewan. A VNM pilot project would allow Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan to benefit from the economic, social and environmental considerations of community renewable energy projects at the community scale. A virtual net metering program would allow the community to own the renewable energy generation facility and share the production generation with community-owned buildings, Elders homes, residences, and other uses as they choose.

Project Description

Number of Communities: 5-7

Estimated Generation Required per community: 1 MW – 2 MW